Division II is a collection of more than 300 NCAA colleges and universities that provide thousands of student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a high level of scholarship athletics while excelling in the classroom and fully engaging in the broader campus experience. This balance, in which student-athletes are recognized for their academic success, athletics contributions and campus/community involvement, is at the heart of the Division II philosophy.
All three NCAA divisions emphasize athletics and academic excellence for their student-athletes; after all, the NCAA’s overall mission is to make athletics an integral part of the educational experience at all member schools. The differences among the divisions emerge primarily in how schools choose to fund their athletics programs and in the national attention they command.
Most Division I institutions, for example, choose to devote more financial resources to support their athletics programs, and many are able to do so because of the large media contracts Division I conferences are able to attract, mostly to showcase the publicly popular sports of football and men’s basketball.
Division II student-athletes are just as competitive and in many cases just as skilled as their Division I counterparts, but institutions in Division II generally don’t have the financial resources to devote to their athletics programs or choose not to place such a heavy financial emphasis on them.
What makes Division II unique:
- Division II schools are located in 44 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. The division also expands its membership into Canada with the NCAA’s only international member institution, Simon Fraser University, and features three schools located in Puerto Rico.
- Enrollments at Division II schools range from more than 25,000 to less than 2,500, though about 87 percent of the division’s member schools have fewer than 8,000 students.
- Division II offers a “partial-scholarship” model for financial aid in which most student-athletes’ college experiences are funded through a mix of athletics scholarships, academic aid, need-based grants and/or employment earnings
- Division II features a high championship-participant ratio (one championship opportunity for every seven student-athletes – the highest among all three NCAA divisions), an emphasis on regional competition in order to reduce missed class time, and a robust community engagement philosophy that integrates student-athletes within both their campus and regional communities.
- Division II is the only NCAA division that conducts National Championships Festivals, an Olympic-style event in which a number of national championships are held at a single site over several days. Division II initiated the Festival concept in spring 2004 in Orlando, Florida. Subsequent Festivals occurred in fall 2006 at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida; spring 2008 (Houston); winter 2009 (Houston); fall 2010 (Louisville); spring 2012 (Louisville); winter 2013 (Birmingham, Alabama) and fall 2014 (Louisville). Upcoming Festivals are scheduled for spring sports in May 2016 in Denver, and for winter sports in 2017 in Birmingham.
- Division II student-athletes get their share of television exposure. Since 2006, the NCAA has produced regular-season Division II television broadcasts in football and men’s and women’s basketball. CBS Sports Network has aired more than 60 games featuring more than 100 Division II institutions in a regular-season national television broadcast. In addition, almost all Division II championship finals are either broadcast live or live-streamed online.
- Student-athletes generally comprise a high percentage of the student body at Division II schools, which insists that athletics is an important component of the learning experience at these institutions.
- The Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee initiated a fundraising campaign with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2003 and has raised more than $4 million since then for the national nonprofit, helping to fund more than 500 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.